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Personal tech solutions: Get back photos lost in a crash

I have a Compaq laptop and it crashed and wiped out Windows Vista. I was wondering if there was a way to go in to retrieve my lost pictures. What about with new version of Vista installed?

As long as you just reinstall the operating system (Windows Vista) only, without any of the reformat options. You can also boot from your source Windows CD and choose the repair option, but the success of an attempted repair will depend on how much damage was done to the existing Windows installation. In this case, reinstallation would be your next best option.

Use caution if you use the PC vendor recover disk. Most recover disks also include a reset-to-factory option. You do not want to do that. All you want to do is reinstall Windows Vista. That should leave your photos (and other data) intact. If all you want to do is recover the pictures, another option would be to remove the disk and attach it to an existing PC and the disk should be readable.

If you don't know how to do this, it may make sense to bring it to a service center and pay to have it done. Once you're back up and running, go buy an inexpensive external USB hard drive and start backing up your important documents regularly.

My PC is headed to the shop again. The last time I lost all my Windows Live e-mails because of reformatting of the hard drive. I am trying to find the folders where the e-mails are stored, so I can copy them to a spare hard drive.

Good idea. This is how you find your folder for Windows Live Mail: From within Windows Live Mail, click Tools, Options, the Advanced tab, and then the Maintenance button under the Maintenance and Troubleshooting section. This will display the Maintenance window. Click the Store Folder button. Copy the folder location to your Paste buffer by highlighting it and pressing ctrl-c. Exit Windows Live Mail, click Start, run and paste that folder location from your Paste buffer (ctrl-v) and click OK. That will take you to your Windows Live E-mail location. Then you can just drag-and-drop the individual e-mail folders to your backup drive.

When I click on "Windows Explorer" in the programs list or the shortcut icon, I get this: "This file does not have a program associated with it to perform this action. Please install a program or if one is already installed, create an association in the Default Programs control panel." Is there anything I can do to access this file? I am using Windows 7.

Try this: Click the Windows 7 orb (also known as the Start button) and type %windir%\explorer.exe and press enter. If that brings up the usual Windows Explorer window then at least you know the base executable is there and functioning correctly.

The next step would be to look at the properties of your failed shortcut as well as the failed programs list. Make sure the target is set to %windir%\explorer.exe (check this by right-clicking the shortcut and choosing Properties). If none of these solutions work, you may want to try doing a System Restore to a point before this started happening (click the Windows 7 orb and type "system restore" and click on the System Restore link.

Send questions to or Personal Tech, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Questions are answered only in this column.

Personal tech solutions: Get back photos lost in a crash 03/27/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 27, 2011 4:30am]
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